Saturday’s decision by the Australian Labor Party to include marriage equality in it’s party platform was a bittersweet one.

The recognition of same-sex relationships in the party’s official policy is indeed a momentus step. It is just a shame Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s cop-out conscience vote decision also got enough support.

So where does this leave the LGBTI community? And what should we do next?

There are no guarantees with a conscience vote — and the fact that Tony Abbott is steadfastly refusing to allow Coaltion MPs a conscience vote on the matter means any vote under the status quo is guaranteed to fail.

But if there are any lessons to be learnt from the marriage equality journeys of other countries, they centre on maintaining the pressure and taking a doggedly unrelenting approach to the fight.

While more than 140,000 marriage equality supporters may have signed GetUp!’s marriage equality petition, and more than 10,000 people marched on the ALP National Conference on Saturday — all that is now history.

The reality is we have only won the first battle of a much larger fight and it is too early to pack away our rainbow flags and head home.

IN PICS: December 3 marriage equality rally

The ongoing letters and meetings with local MPs must continue. And now more than ever we need to call on our friends, family and supporters to join in those activities.

We must also prepare ourselves for the tactics of our opponents, especially those who have shown themselves willing to put their manners to one side and lower the battle to gutter level, because history has shown us that the closer we get to victory, the more vicious and morally corrupt they will become.

VIDEO: December 3 marriage equality rally

If Saturday’s rally proved anything, it is that marriage equality is something we as a community care deeply about, albeit for a variety of reasons, and one we are essentially united on.

What we now must do is harness, develop and nurture that sense of unity and continue to march forward to victory.

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